Thursday, December 30, 2010

NFL Fines New York Jets $100 Grand For Tripping Incident

The NFL has fined the New York Jets $100,000 for an assistant coach tripping a Miami Dolphins special teams player during a game on December 12.  Jets strength and conditioning coach, Sal Alosi, was caught on tape--and thousands of camera phones--sticking his knee out and knocking down the Dolphins Nolan Carroll as he ran down the sideline on kick coverage.

Alosi was the alleged ringleader in a planned strategy of building a wall of other Jets coaches and assistants to block the sideline.  He has already indefinitely suspended for the rest of the season and fined $25,000 by the Jets for the incident.

A statement from the NFL said the Jets violated league rules by forming the illegal sideline barrier and the tactic was deemed both a "competitive violation" and "dangerous."

The NFL fine could be in response to the Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff's public criticism of a "team up north [the New England Patriots?] uses the same tactic."

The NFL wants to make it clear to players and coaches not to engage in "public criticism of other clubs."

The Jets have not disclosed how long they will suspend Alosi beyond the season but a spokesperson said the team will comply with the league's decision.

Favre Gets Off Easy For 'Not' Cooperating With NFL

The NFL let Brett Favre off the hook yesterday by ending its investigation into the quarterback allegedly sending suggestive text messages and graphic photos to female sideline reporter Jennifer Sterger .  The former New York Jets signal caller and alleged sext message sender was fined $50,000 by the league who admitted they couldn't prove he sent the dirty texts and photos.  It looks like the league basically swept the case under the ice-covered turf inside the Metrodome.


In a press release, the NFL announced that commissioner Roger Goodell, after analyzing forensic evidence collected over a two years  span, "could not conclude that Favre violated league policies relating to workplace conduct" after Favre hindered the league's investigation.

"Our investigation took longer than might ordinarily have been the case due to difficulties in arranging to speak with certain key individuals," the NFL statement said.

The NFL let Favre slide on the more serious charges of violating harassment rules, partly because of his stalling tactics.

Forget what is "Ripped from the Headlines" and seen on "Law & Order," admitting your guilt and copping a plea is for chumps--at least in the NFL.  All you have to do there is stall, then retire.  Detective Lennie Briscoe must be rolling in his grave.

The NFL fined the married Minnesota Vikings QB a token 50 G for not being "candid" with the investigators about the accusations he sent the sexually-explicit photos and suggestive texts to the 26 year-old Sterger in 2008 at the Jets training camp.

Goodell determined that Favre's behavior during the probe resulted " in a longer review and additional negative public attention for Favre, Sterger and the league."

The ongoing saga has taken some wild twists and turns.  Favre has admitted to sending the text messages,  but has denied sending the nasty images but the website, Deadspin.com, which first published the photos in October said they all came from the same phone number.  Sterger has left many people questioning why it took her two years to make the incident public--even after Favre left the Jets in 2009.

The commissioner has been criticized for moving the probe at a snail's pace and his delay in making a decision on the case.  Many felt Goodell was protecting Favre, the all-time consecutive games played record holder and NFL icon, until the quarterback retired at the end of this season when a suspension would mean nothing.  Favre had his 297 game streak broken earlier this month and is questionable for the last game of this season--and his career--this Sunday.

The fine is little more than a token nuisance to Favre, who made $10 million this season.  In his world, the penalty takes about three minutes worth of game salary from his paycheck.

Favre may not be fist-pumping after this decision.  Sterger's lawyer, former federal prosecutor Joe Conway said he was "extremely disappointed" in the decision and wouldn't discuss his client's next move.  He said Sterger has not ruled out filing a law suit but preferred no to sue the NFL, the Jets or Favre.  Who's left after them?

Goodell met with both Favre and Sterger earlier this month to discuss the sordid allegations which has centered on the photos of male private parts that the sports website published.  Deadspin.com has been steadfast in claiming the images are self-portraits that  Favre sent Sterger.

Favre, 41,  says he intends to retire after a tumultuous season filled with injuries and other sexual accusations which cannot be confirmed.  The NFL will not have jurisdiction over Favre if he leaves.

The Jets issued a statement saying the team considered the matter over and done with.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Steve Lavin Must Toughen Up For Big East

St. John's University's new head coach Steve Lavin has had his ups and downs with his senior laden team in non-conference play so far.  Now comes a big test against West Virginia (8-2) and it won't get any easier.  His slicked back hair is about to get mussed.  Welcome to the Big East Conference coach Lavin.

The Red Storm (7-3) heads down to West Virginia tonight for Lavin's first Big East conference game against a physically big and tough team.  The Mountaineers have three New Yorkers who play rough and tumble Big East type basketball.  Kevin Jones (Mt. Vernon), Truck Bryant (Brooklyn) and Danny Jennings (Staten Island) should be a handful for the experienced St. John's squad.

St. John's won two tournament titles in the opening weeks of the young season in Alaska and New York and beat formidable opponents like Davidson and a good Big Ten team from Northwestern, but two deflating losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham reminded fans of the underachieving Red Storm teams of the last head coach, Norm Roberts.  Maybe the jet-lagged team--they travelled over 12,000 miles before Dec.1--have their land legs back.

The Johnnies entered the season with high hopes and a lot of Big East experience.  Four seasoned seniors and highly-touted freshman, Dwayne Polle II make up the nucleus of a team which feels it could make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

The seniors--Justin Brownlee, Justin Burrell, Dwight Hardy and pre-season Big East second-team player, D.J. Kennedy--will lead the charge and have been through plenty of Big East scrums.  It is a capable crew but they will need to learn how to focus and finish a game.  Too many times the players watch half-time leads dwindle to losses.  Turnovers and foul shooting are still problems too.

Lavin has brought lots of optimism to St. John's.  Next year's recruiting class is being called one of the top five in the country and arguably the best in the prestigious St. John's basketball history.  That is all and well for next year.  Now comes the reality of playing one of best collection of Big East teams in the conference's thirty year history.  Currently, five Big East teams reside in top ten national polls.

The Red Storm's brutal schedule includes Villanova, Georgetown (twice), Notre Dame (twice), Syracuse, Louisville, Connecticut and Pitt.  All of those teams are in or hover around every top-25 poll in the country. Even the middle-of-the pack teams will be battling it out for an NCAA bubble spot in March.  It isn't going to be easy for any team.

We all know now that Lavin can recruit on the East coast---even after being out of coaching since 2003---now let's see how he handles the ruggedness of Big East basketball and dealing with the referees.

Lavin, who is unfamiliar with Big East refs, will have to get on-the-job training in dealing with them.  The coach, who was issued only three technicals in seven years as head coach at UCLA, already has two in his first ten games at St. John's.

The new head coach comes to St. John's bringing hope for the future and tournament dreams to a solid transitional team of experienced players.  It is time for the Red Storm to find out what kind of team it really is.

The Mountaineers--a Final Four team last year-- are a physical bunch.  It should provide a good barometer of what the Red Storm can achieve.   Let's see how tough Lavin and the Red Storm really are.  Let the real season begin!

Eagles Loss and Layover Make N.Y. Giants Road To Playoffs Harder

The New York Giants made made it back to New Jersey yesterday after being an extended stay in Appleton Wisconsin, due to the blizzard which dumped two feet of snow on the New York City area.  After losing a crucial game to the Green Bay Packers 45-17 on Sunday, the team finally landed at Newark International Airport a full day and half later than scheduled, then later watched the Minnesota Vikings stun the Philadelphia Eagles 24-14. Ironically, the Eagles loss could have put the final nail in the Giants playoff chances.

The Chicago Bears have now locked up a No. 2 seed in the NFC, meaning they will get a first round bye. The Bears play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.  If the Packers win, the Giants are out of the playoffs for the second straight year.  The Bears are still vying for a No. 1 seed.

The challenges facing the Giants in their quest for a wild card playoff spot are mostly out of their hands now.  The Bears can move up to the No. 1 seed if they win and the current top seed, the Atlanta Falcons, lose to the 2-13 Carolina Panthers.

The Bears play Sunday at 4:15 p.m., so when the team takes the field they should know the outcome of the Falcons-Panthers 1 p.m. game and if the No. 1 seed is still up for grabs.  If the Falcons clinch the No. 1 and home field advantage throughout, do the Bears still go all out or do they pull a Colts and rest the starters?

Right after the Vikings victory, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs tweeted," Let's just hope Chicago play their starters.  But it's always good to see Philly lose.  DAMN."

'Maybe the Giants starters should just play' would be a common lament from New York fans

A couple of other factors could affect the Giants destiny---the one night Wisconsin layover and the second straight hangover from another disappointing loss.  Head coach Tom Coughlin claims his staff would be about a half a day behind schedule from the delay.

The Giants players heads could be a different story.  The last two "playoff clinching games" included blowing a 31-10 lead to the Eagles in the fourth quarter combined with the 45-17 blowout to the Packers.  They could be worse than a New Year's Day headbanger that all the Players Only meetings and Guaranteed Victories won't cure.

Bears head coach  Lovie Smith said he plans on playing his starters but,  it remains to be seen if he uses them the whole game.  Seeing a win by the Falcons before gametime could take away a lot of the Bears' motivation.

Leave it to their old nemesis the Eagles to kick more dirt in the Giants' face.  New York has lost six in a row to Philadelphia including two this season already.  If, and that is a gargantuan if, the Giants do slip into the playoffs, the road will most certainly run down the Turnpike through the unfriendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field and a third meeting with the Birds.  Not a pleasant road trip.

A lot more than the Giants playoff hopes are riding on this game.  If the Giants lose this Sunday at Fed Ex Field to the dreadful 6-9 Washington Redskins, the cries for Coughlin's head could get to Metrodome levels.  Offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride could also see his scalp on a stick.  Another December failure could lead to wholesale changes on the Giants.  Can you say Bill Cowher.

It was only a couple of weeks ago the Giants were 9-4, leading the Eagles 31-10 with eight minutes to go.  The NFC East title and fate were in their grasp.  It seems a lot longer than that now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New York Giants Not Worthy Of Playoffs

The entire New York Giants team and coaching staff should hang their heads in shame after yesterday's 45-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.  Ironically, last week's whipping boy, punter Matt Dodge, had the best game of any Giant player and last week's whipper, head coach Tom Coughlin, looked clueless and on the ropes.  The Bill Cowher calls are getting louder.

The Giants were stranded in Appleton, Wisconsin after yesterday's interminable game because of the blizzard in New York.  Talk about a snow job.  To rally the troops, after last week's debacle at the New Meadowlands (same as the old) Stadium,  Giants quarterback Eli Manning called his first 'players only' meeting in the seven years he's been in New York and safety, Antrell Rolle all but guaranteed a victory against the Packers, the Giants still folded under pressure...big time.

As the Giants do their all-too-familiar December swoon, it all comes down to coaching and basics.  Tough-love coach Coughlin looked like a man out of his element yesterday.  His chance to challenge a fourth-quarter Packer interception was lost because he wasted it on a foolish challenge earlier.  Even a sure-bet reversal of a kick-off fumble by Hakeem Nicks took Coughlin a couple of agonizing minutes before Nicks finally convinced the head coach to toss the red flag.  Nicks was correct.

Coughlin doesn't deserve all the blame--just most of it.  The whole team looked uninspired and unprepared.  You know something is wrong when a veteran team fails to perform fundamental football duties.  Turnovers, pouncing on loose balls, on-side kick coverage, punt coverage and kickoff returns are all problems with the team.  The team has no one to blame but themselves.

There are no excuses for the Giants poor play.  Center Shaun O' Hara was back and the offensive line was complete but Manning still threw 4 interceptions to a Packer defense depleted by injuries.

"They played harder than we did," an exasperated Justin Tuck said, "It's a sick feeling in my stomach to be able to say that, considering what we had at stake."  What they had at stake was destiny.  Beat the Packers, make the playoffs.

The Giants vaunted backfield continues to underachieve and lose balls.  Ahmad Bradshaw continues to drop the football at the first hello and Brandon Jacobs got the ball poked out of his arms after being chased down by linebacker extraordinaire, Clay Matthews.  On the end of that romp, the usually clutch tight-end Kevin Boss tried to pick up the loose ball instead of hopping on it.  Green Bay's recovery shot down any chance the Giants had to make a game of it.  That makes 41 Giants turnovers this season.  They had 13 all year in just two years ago.

The Packers QB, Aaron Rodgers, played lights out yesterday, only couple of weeks from being knocked out by a concussion.  He riddled the Giants D for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He made  "victory guaranteed' Rolle bite on an eighty yard TD throw to Jordy Nelson. Packer running back John Kuhn looked like a reincarnation of Jim Taylor against the over-rated and under-whelming Giants D-line.

Over the last 68 minutes the Giants have given up 73 points.  Not exactly Giants football.

Coughlin--who could be coaching his last game for the Giants this Sunday--said, "I'd like to see us get the 10th win, and I'd like to see us come back from a game of this nature."  Didn't he say that last week?  " There's not a whole lot out there to be proud of," continued the coach, "And literally stop talking about it and do it."  Again, last week?

All the Giants keep repeating is that they are still in the playoff hunt, but now they are the prey.  This Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins in D.C. has been pushed back to a 4:15 starting time.  Oh goody, three more hours to prepare.

The Giants are in the playoffs if they beat Washington and the Bears beat the Packers.  Or if they beat the Redskins and the Saints lose twice, starting with tonight's game.  Good luck with that.

Here is a scenario which is much more likely to pan out.  The Giants are in the playoffs if Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger kiss and make up, Michael Vick is voted  PETA's Man of the Year and Rex Ryan becomes a spokesperson for Dr. Scholl's.  Only then can you believe the Giants are playoff bound.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poor Vikings On Move Again Due To Snow

The NFL announced that Sunday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will be postponed until Tuesday night due to a snow storm.  The blizzard is expected to drop up to 20" of snow with wind gusts up to 50 mph.  It is only the 7th postponed NFL game since 2004 and second this year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yankees Scraping Bottom By Pursuing Manny Ramirez

If New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn't turn his team into the best one this off-season, he could turn them into the oldest.  While the Yankees are in desperate of starting pitchers and relievers, reports from the YES Network say Cashman has had internal discussions about signing aging outfielders, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.  If you can't beat the Boston Red Sox on the playing filed next year, at least you can break the hearts of the Red Sox Nation by wheeling out a couple of their favorite Idiots in pinstripes.

Cashman seems to be scavenging  the bottom of the free-agent scrap heap looking for players.  The eccentric Ramirez is free after finishing a two-year $45 million  deal he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He finished last years injury-plagued season with the Chicago White Sox and batted .298 with nine home runs and 42 RBI's in 90 games.

It seems ridiculous for Cashman to be looking at outfielders and a DH, while the real Yankee priorities are starting and relief pitching.  Andy Pettitte  seems to be leaning heavily towards retirement and the Yankee GM has made it clear that Jorge Posada will see way more games as DH than as catcher.  So what's he doing?

The Yankees say they are trying to land a defense-first player to spell regular outfielders Nick Swisher,
Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.  That trio is solid, if not spectacular and Ramirez is no defensive whiz.  In fact, Ramirez finished the season in Chicago as the full-time DH.

The talk of pursuing Ramirez could just be coincidental.  Agent Scott Boras represents both Damon and Ramirez, so it seems logical the heavy-hitting righthander's name was just tossed out there during the talks.

Damon, the former Yankee outfielder bats left-handed and appears hopeful of landing a full-time starting position.  There doesn't seem to be any room for the player and fan-favorite anywhere on the roster in that capacity.

Ramirez, on the other hand, is a malcontent and his behavior could be disruptive to the team chemistry.  This would not sit well with the Yankee's Key-Three---Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Posada.

If Pettitte bails, it looks like the remaining starting pitcher pool is slim and not particularly reassuring.  Reports say Cashman has asked for the medical records of Freddy Garcia and has inquired about oft-injured Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis.  Any of those moves look intriguing, but it looks like Cashman might have to rely on the inexperienced--but highly touted--Ivan Nova as the fourth starter until he can make a blockbuster move before the July 31 trading deadline.

The Yankees just look and sound old.  Cashman's two biggest off-season moves so far have been resigning the 36 year-old Jeter and 41 year-old Rivera and now he is chasing after other past-their-prime or damaged players.

If Cashman isn't voted MLB's Executive of the Year,  the Yankee GM could end up AARP's Employer of the Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rex Ryan Gives 'Foot' Ball Press Conference New Meaning

The New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan went to great lengths to avoid discussing the foot-fetish videos circulating on the Internet showing his look-alike wife, Michelle, being interviewed by a sound-alike Ryan at yesterdays mid-week press conference.  If true, they could the latest in a long line of embarrassing episodes for the team this season.

The suspiciously low-keyed Ryan didn't deny they videos were of him and his wife, but stressed that the toe jamborees were a "private matter" six times during yesterday's press conference.  It's seemed like the first time the head coach, uncharacteristically, didn't put his foot in his mouth and he quickly preceded to discuss more important issues like the upcoming game against the Chicago Bears than the sexily-titled short clips "Awesome Soles" and "Hot Mature Sexy Feet.  Only the 'toes knows.'

Ryan then got callous and seriously put his foot down.  He got down about playing with the piggie-skin.  Ryan, son of former coach Buddy Ryan, comes from a good pedi-gree bared his sole in discussing upcoming game's playoff implications.

The big toe of the Jets mentioned that a playoff berth is afoot if they put their best foot down.  The single digit win last week against Pittsburgh showed fans that the Jets don't get cold feet when they play on the road and if they toe the line they can de-feet the Bears.

Ryan went on to say the team is now gellin' after stubbing it's toes with a couple of losses before last week and he reported some new player injuries.

The sole of the team, quarterback Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury is heeling.  The nimble-footed QB played in a limited practice on Wednesday and looked fine.  He shouldn't have happy feet on Sunday when the Bears excellent defensive end Julius Peppers goes toe-to-toe with the Jets offensive line.  He also said his team won't look flat-footed by the blistering speed of fleet-footed Devin Hester.

Ryan was more interested in his athlete's foot than the videos.  In a bit of awkward timing, Ryan said he was tickled that Santonio Holmes' turf toe is getting better.  The well-heeled Jets owner Woody Johnson, arch-supported his coach.  He will likely send over a get-well basket of Johnson & Johnson pedi-care products and foot the bill.

By duh-feeting duh Bears in Chicago, the home of sole music, the Jets avoid the agony of de-feet and could end up having a playoff meeting with their arch-enemy the New England Patriots and Tom Brady--husband of model Giselle Bunion.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mark Sanchez Has Tear In Throwing Arm

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez today confirmed a report that his right shoulder has torn cartilage.  According to the New York Daily News, doctors said an MRI on Sanchez's throwing arm showed a partial tear, but it wasn't deemed game threatening.

On Wednesday night, Sanchez said his shoulder was fine and he ran a few plays during 'limited' practice earlier in the day.  He said he did some running and threw a few passes without any discomfort and it looks like the light practice was precautionary.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan confirmed his quarterback's shoulder was "sore," but he would be ready for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.  The coach downplayed the seriousness of his star player's injury, "If he [Sanchez] had to play, he would be able to play today."  "I'm 99 percent sure he'll be ready to play on Sunday," said Ryan.

There have been a lot of questions surrounding Sanchez's poor performances during losses in the past few weeks.  His throws were off target and he was taking a beating until the Jets big win in Pittsburgh against the Steelers this past Sunday.  During that game Sanchez showed some of the flair he did earlier in the season.

The Jets (10-4) travel to Chicago this week to battle the Bears. Chicago's strength is their defense, so Sanchez better be on his toes.  Their four-man rush is led by a pair of sacking defensive bookends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije.

The Bears (10-4) have already clinched the NFC North by beating a lot of inferior opponents. The Jets are still fighting for a playoff spot and the Bears could be vulnerable.  They have the 30th ranked offense and their quarterback Jay Cutler is just as capable of throwing 4 interceptions as 4 touchdown passes.

"I feel our team plays best with our back to the wall, " said Sanchez, "We just want to get to the playoffs."

The Jets need one win to make the playoffs.  If Sanchez's shoulder is okay, the Jets road to the playoffs should be much easier.

Eli Manning Finally Speaks Up: Giants Must Man Up Against Packers

Eli Manning did something he has never done in seven years as the New York Giants quarterback.  The usually reserved quarterback asked head coach Tom Coughlin if he could address the team in a players only meeting "before he [Coughlin] came in."  The head coach was more than happy to oblige his offensive leader after the horrendous 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

The five minute speech wasn't a last gasp of desperation.  It was Manning's way getting order back in the Giants' house after all the finger-pointing.

If you totaled up all of the Giants mistakes and misplays of the previous thirteen games, it wouldn't be more than the final seven and a half minutes of Giants futility against the Eagles.  Sunday's epic collapse was so bad Coughlin went home and recounted the game alone "in a room with the lights out for about 2 1/2 hours."

Manning spent his time after the game recounting the game to an empty press room for a while.  Contrary to a video making the rounds, the Giant quarterback was not stood up by the media.  The classy Manning had to wait a few minutes for the press room to fill.  He took the loss like a leader should.

The Giants QB, whose emotional range usually runs from the occasional fist pump to the more common befuddled head shake, took matters into his own hands by being the only speaker in his  attempt to raise the spirits of the fragile team's ego.

Never the outspoken team leader in the mold of a Michael Strahan or even the resident loudmouth safety Antrell Rolle, one can only hope the quiet Manning's rallying cry was in the style of John Belushi's character, Bluto, in "Animal House."  In that scenario, Manning might have began his fist-pounding speech with, "Remember when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor..."  At which the surprised Giant players all stare at their animated QB, then at each other.  Justin Tuck nods his head and says to no one, "Leave him alone, he's rolling," in reaction to Manning's first pep talk.

In reality, Manning matter-of-fact speech boiled down to this, " We're going to write the ending to this story, no one else." When asked to elaborate on what he said, Manning explained, "Just team stuff."

 Most of the veteran players couldn't remember their QB addressing the team like this, but said they will remember what he said in his non-confrontational style.  While Manning was calling a civil meeting of Giant minds, fans were still ranting for punter Matt Dodge's head. 

Manning's mild demeanor was a sharp contrast to Coughlin's public chewing out of the A.J. Burnett wannabe, Dodge, on the sideline the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.  The quarterback knows winning is a team effort and there were ten other players besides Dodge who could have tackled DeSean Jackson before his game-winning punt return. 

"It wasn't necessarily a speech.  He was just very prolific in saying [what] we had to do," said the defensive captain, Tuck.  "He just wanted to make sure we were on the same page, that our minds were set on coming in here on Wednesday and working our butts off," said Tuck.

The Giants (9-5) can take comfort that they are still be in the playoff hunt.  They control their own destiny for a wildcard position, but another December swoon would be two failed seasons in a row and Coughlin's  job could hang in the balance.

The Giants must purge the bad memories of Sunday.  Riding on this week's game against the Green Bay Packers (8-6) is the final wildcard position.  Packers star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has already been cleared to play after missing last week's game due to a concussion.  A Giants loss at Lambeau Field would give the Packers the tiebreaker.

In his heart, Manning's message was an attempt to stem the tide of damage from the embarrassing loss and soothe the fractured Giants psyche.  Teammates said he put on stoic face, but could tell he just wants to win.  Now they head to the frozen turf in Green Bay and try to put all the bad memories of blowing a 31-10 lead behind them. 

 If Manning was trying to rally the troops by stirring up ghosts of Super Bowl seasons past, he has a tough road ahead.  If they can't win at home with a three touchdown lead, how can they expect to win three straight playoff road games.  They haven't even won a playoff game since the '07 Super bowl victory.

All and all, the Giants are still in the playoffs today.  It's up to the team to react positively to last week's collapse.  Maybe this veteran team will recall that '07 team of road warriors, but all the 'Win one for the Gipper' speeches in the world won't mean a thing if the Giants team can't make one loud statement on the field--together.

U Conn Women Break UCLA Men's Win Streak. Who Cares?

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team finally broke the NCAA and UCLA men's basketball team mark of 88 consecutive wins in-a-row.  Outside of sports-deprived Connecticut, who really cares about the 36 year-old record?

The 89 game win streak is a nice accomplishment and the members of the team worked hard for the record, but really, the streak as a whole was about as riveting as an episode of "The New Adventures of Christine" or as anticipated as the release of the latest Anne Hathaway rom-com.  You know its there but...yawn.

Outside of U Conn's head coach Geno Auriemma's rantings this past week, the totally dominating Huskies made the whole three-year streak seem too easy--and boring. They've run off quite a few of these kind of extended streaks before.  It's almost anti-climatic.  They even beat Florida State University, a nationally-ranked team, 93-62, for the record last night.  Not exactly a nail-biter.

Except for a few consistently good programs at Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee,  don't expect too many party crashers at the women's Final Four. The series of one-sided wins against relatively weak competition is like the NCAA men's basketball season being played without any ACC and Big East conference teams. 

Auriemma has been blasting anyone who criticized his team and has made those naysayers feel like chauvinists if they didn't think breaking the streak was every woman's right.  Sorry if people don't want to watch one team steamroll opponents with 30 point blowouts every game. 

At last Sunday's press conference Auriemma said, "The reason everyone is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch women are threatening to break a men's record, and everyone is all up in arms about it."  No Geno.  It's not a heart attack, it's a choking fit from having ESPN shove non-ending promos and features about your team down viewer's throats.  We need the Heimlich, not good fundamental basketball.

"All the miserable bastards who follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed off," the fiery coach continued at his press conference.  If he is suggesting it is only men who are "miserable bastards",  he's in for a shock.  There are a lot of females who don't like or follow women's sports either. 

Again, if men's sports fans watch their sports, it doesn't mean they're fueling some bias against women's sports.  It's a choice and a fact; men's sports are more popular and bring in higher revenue for college programs.  Women's sports have their niche, but cannot compete with the marketing of men's sports in college or the pros.

Auriemma--who makes highly-caffeinated Kansas State men's coach Frank Martin look mellow-- may find it hard to believe, but some men don't even care about the UCLA streak either.

Let's give the women their due.  The U Conn streak is worthy of praise.  The ladies hard work and sustained excellence deserve recognition, but last night--even with no NFL or NBA games on TV--I didn't even watch one minute of the Huskies record-setting game on ESPN.  It wasn't exactly "The Decision."

If Auriemma considers non-followers of the sport he coaches un-American or biased, so be it.  The coach is known as a good team motivator and recruiter.  Maybe, if he wasn't using this streak as a personal platform to rant at men and the media,  he could be using those skills to draw people into arenas,  respect women's basketball and give the sport it's due.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith Offered $1 Million to Fight Each Other

Hollywood heavyweights, Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith, have been offered $1 million each to fight in a celebrity boxing match on February 26 in Las Vegas, according to RadarOnline.com.

The match was proposed to both actors--who have portrayed boxers on the big-screen--by Damon Feldman, CEO of Hollywood Boxing Federation (formally known as Celebrity Boxing Federation).


"This will be a great opportunity for both stars to fight in the Super Bowl of Hollywood boxing and to donate millions to their favorite charities," Feldman said.

Wahlberg and Smith are familiar with the sport of boxing through their films.  Smith played the title role in the Michael Mann's award-winning film "Ali" and Wahlberg stars as "Irish" Mickey Ward in David O. Russell's critically-acclaimed "The Fighter," which is currently playing in theaters.  Both films are considered two of the all-time best movies in the boxing-genre.

Feldman said the two actors would go at it for three, one minute rounds.  "We don't think these two are going to rip each others heads off, " said Feldman.  "We're just hoping they get into the ring and duke it out."

Both actors are physically fit and look like they could go toe-to-toe with each other.  Wahlberg claims he spent more money on training for "The Fighter" than he got paid and it showed.  The scenes where Wahlberg's filmed shots were inter cut with real tapes of Ward's HBO's fights were barely distinguishable.

If the two ever decide to put up their dukes, Wahlberg will have to go inside, he gives up more than a few inches and pounds to the lanky Smith.

The Hollywood Boxing Federation has promoted C-list "celebrity fights" with Jose Canseco, Danny Bonaduce, and Michael Lohan before. It may be easier to get Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring than the two A-listers.

Neither star has commented on the offer, but I would take Marky Mark over Fresh Prince in a split decision.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giant Loss and Cowher Talk Are 'Ridiculous'

Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick said he wanted a puppy and the New York Giants obliged the quarterback's wishes and became his lapdog.  Yesterday's epic Giants loss was the latest in a long line of mega-meltdowns against the Eagles and the murmurs of 'Fire Coughlin' are starting to get louder--especially after Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Cowher, said the Giants are number one team he would like to coach.

Enough of putting the blame on the Giants punter Matt Dodge for yesterdays dog-fight ugly 38-31 loss to the Eagles.  The collapse of the whole team rests on the shoulders of head coach Tom Coughlin.  Funny, it looked like the Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid's head was on the block after the Giants took a 31-10 lead with seven and a half minutes left and then, in a series of Giants bungled plays, missed tackles and a heavy dose of Vick's passing and running, Reid was revered and Coughlin reviled.

Giants owner John Mara shook his head at rumors the Giants were interested in Cowher.  The former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach announced he was interested in getting back to the coaching game and whittled down his team choices to the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans and at the top of the short list, the New York Giants according to an ESPN report.

Mara called the stories, "Ridiculous.  We were writing Bill Cowher stories two months ago and now we are going to write them again?  That's ridiculous."

Cowher spent 15 seasons with the Steelers and won two AFC titles and the 2005 Super Bowl under him.  Cowher left the Steelers in 2006 and works as an analyst for CBS.  He is one of a small group of prized free-agent coaches available.

Last January, Cowher's name was bandied about for the Giants head coaching position after Coughlin and the Giants miserable December losing streak eliminated them from the playoffs.  Two months ago the calls for Cowher got louder from Giant fans after the G-Men were reeling from consecutive losses.

Former Steeler running back Jerome Bettis thinks Cowher will wait for the Giants job to open up.  On SiriusXM's Mad Dog Radio, Bettis said he feels that New York was "Where he always wanted to be.  The Mara family, he's always been close to them."  Bettis said these were his opinions and admitted he had not talked with his old coach.

Coughlin's repeated berating of his punter on the sidelines has become a all too common sight-- but the loss was a team effort and it starts at the top.  Coughlin's defense--which held Vick in check for fifty-two and a half minutes broke like a wet paper bag.  The offense couldn't even work the clock in the second half.  Don't even mention the special teams.  Which team lines up five yards further than it should for an obvious on-side kick?  The Giants, that's who!  Coughlin and his staff deserve most of the blame for this monumental loss.

The Giants control their own playoff destiny.  They are hanging on to wild card by a a thread thinner than a fan's patience with Coughlin.  They must win the remaining road games against the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins to be assured of at least a wild card.

Coughlin's tough-love style of coaching is well known.  It will take more than a firm hand to help this band of second-half underachievers.  A loss of Sunday's magnitude can damage a weak team's spirit beyond repair or drive a superior team to once attainable heights. Let's see how old Coughlin handles it.

Coughlin has a Super Bowl ring and one year left on his contract.  Another December slide from the playoffs for the second year in a row could mean Cowher could getting his dream job in New York.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The Fighter" Delivers in Every Round

The film "The Fighter", a true story about "Irish" Mickey Ward's improbable road to the world light welterweight title will not disappoint film or boxing fans alike.  It is one of the most absorbing and realistic boxing films ever made.

Every film about the sweet science will forever be compared to Martin Scorcese's brilliant bio-pic "Raging Bull" about the savage Jake LaMotta and "The Fighter" can proudly say it goes toe-to-toe with the classic.  It delivers on every front--including the ring action and the characters who revolve around it.

The film, directed by David O. Russell, tells the real-life story of Ward--played by an un-whiny and understated, Mark Wahlberg--and his half-brother Dicky Eklund--played to hyper-perfection by Christian Bale--a once promising fighter who lives for the crack pipe.  Eklund, whose claim to fame was knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard years ago, trains Ward through the haze of a crack smoke and salvaging his failed career through his loyal younger brother.

Eklund is delusional and thinks the HBO crew following him around is doing a story about the 40 year-old's "comeback," when, in reality, they are doing a series about crack addiciton.

It's a time-honored plot, but the script and Russell's direction are flawless.  "The Fighter" grabs your interest from the opening soundtrack and doesn't let go.  At first, Bale's cartoonish Eklund comes of as a stereotype, but when you realize he is playing a speeding, bug-eyed crackhead you understand his non-stop clowning and body movements are typical of a lot of street guys.  When the real Eklund chatters away during the final credits, you realize how right on Bale is with his portrayal.

The film isn't so much about boxing as it is about deep-rooted loyalty between the blue-collar Lowell, Massachusetts brothers and his family.  Ward is managed by his mom Alice--played by a tough-talking Melissa Leo--and surrounded by his seven blue-eyed and blue-mouthed sisters.  Russell captures the working class lingo and neighborhood.  You can almost smell the stale beer in an opening bar scene.

The gritty film is not as nasty as "Raging Bull" and doesn't delve into the lead character like a Rocky Balboa in the original "Rocky", but it has a little of both.

Ward's dilemma is whether or not to dump his brother--whom he idolizes-- as his trainer because the older brother continues to jeopardize the younger fighter's career with his drug abuse.  Ward breaks away from Eklund and their mother and teams with a new crew.  Ward finally finds stability in his life along with some respect, but he fast tracks up the ranks with a heavy heart.

Russell doesn't shove sentimentality down your throat, he doesn't explain or teach you how to box or pass judgement on any character.  It's there on the screen.  If you get it, you get it.

While the fight scenes aren't as lush as Michael Chapman's gorgeous slow-motion black-and-white photography in "Raging Bull", but they ring truer.  The punches look and feel real. The audience is not subjected to close-ups of bloodied faces or punches spreading sweat across the screen and the fight scenes inter cut with real HBO footage are sensational.  Wahlberg has an uncanny resemblance to the real Ward, so it is hard to distinguish between the real HBO tapes--and there are plenty--and the new shots with Wahlberg.  The final fight in the movie is a rousing few minutes and will have you cheering for Ward.

What sets the fight scenes in "The Fighter" apart from any other boxing film is the realism.  When Wahlberg covers up on the ropes you can feel the body shots.  Russell captures the powerful drudgery of a fight--the constant pounding on a fighter's ribs and the ducking and weaving.  The director doesn't portray boxing as orchestrated knock-out punches but as the slow, tiresome wearing down of an opponent.  You feel the twelve rounds of pain.

"The Fighter" avoids the cliches of other boxing films.  There is no long training montage or sentimental speeches.  It's about the little things.  A scene where Ward enters his tiny bare-boned cave of a gym, without his brother in his corner, and notices a nice new and bigger speed bag rings true.  He taps at the unworn equipment and says, "New bag? It looks like a beach ball."  The new bag shines as a symbol of his new start, but not without apprehension.

Russell shows the loneliness of a journeyman boxer.  There is Ward after a loss, bandaged and waking up alone in his tiny apartment.  No entourage.  No bling.  For every Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, there are thousands of broken fighters and battered faces hanging on to a dream.

While "The Wrestler" showed the piss and puss of that sport, Russell lets you in on the mundane life of a boxer and how easy it is for the  endless line of wannabes, and the ones who almost make it, to get spit out like Eklund.

There is very little to cringe at in this film.  The middle drags some after Eklund ends up in prison and Ward falls for his pushy muse, Charlene--played by Amy Adams--but the dialog and fight action ring true to life and keeps your attention.  You actually care about these characters.  There isn't one "wicked" that comes from character's mouth the whole film.

If there was one thing that I--as a boxing fan--would have wanted to see is some footage of Ward's three epic fights with Arturo Gatti, but I suppose that could be a feature film in itself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New York Giants Will Have Dogs Ready For Vick On Sunday

Michael Vick better watch out what he wishes for because sometimes you get more than you want.  The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who is enjoying an MVP caliber season after doing time for federal charges of dogfighting said, in a surprising request, he would like to have "another dog" as a pet.  The New York Giants defense may grant Vick his Christmas wish early this Sunday.

In an unbelievable year, after serving 19 months at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, the troubled QB has taken over the Eagles starting job and is the front runner for Comeback Player of the Year.  All the talk of redemption means nothing to the Giants as they battle the Eagles in another "Turnpike Tussle" for a playoff spot.

The Giants will get a second chance at stopping the scrambling Vick.  The two teams meet Sunday at the New Meadowlands Stadium tied for first place in the NFC East and, pardon the poor cliche, and expect the Giants to come out like a pack of mad dogs.  The Giants can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Eagles and the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all lose.

During their first meeting on Nov. 21, the Giants pressured the Philadelphia QB with a variety of blitzes and held the free-wheeling QB to a total of 34 yards and he didn't account for any of the touchdowns in a 27-17 Giant loss to the Eagles.

Philly head coach admired Big Blue's defensive scheme.  He said they "had a great game plan."

That wasn't good enough for the Giants.  It just showed they could contain the speedy QB and keep him in the pocket.  They plan to prove they aren't scared of the dangerous Vick and charge him with increased safety blitzes.  The Giants D has 31 sacks this season and has already put six quarterbacks on the sidelines. Vick has been slowed down by a cracked sternum in recent weeks.

Giant safety, Deon Grant said, " A defense never plays scared."

Vick is not your typical offensive weapon.  He has thrown for 2,513 yards and rushed for an additional 483 yards.  "I'm just trying to be a leader," the re-invented quarterback said.

The Philadelphia offensive line's game plan is to offer added protection for their much-maligned QB.  On a wall in the Eagles locker room are six photos with the inscription "illegal helmet hits against defenseless players."  Below the images is the word "PROHIBITED" in red ink.

It is to remind the team about the number of questionable "hits" Vick's body has absorbed after he leaves the pocket and scampers for the sidelines.  Eagle players believe, even with all of the NFL's tough talk about illegal hits, there is a double-standard for Vick.  They are frustrated by the lack of calls from the referees and, among his teammates, believe it all leads to Vick's well-publicized past.

The Giants are going into the game with a shortened rest week, due to last Sunday's postponement and relocation of their winning game against the Vikings.  Expect them to hit the field with more than just bark.

Vick has made appearances on behalf of the Humane Society since being released from the pen, but is prohibited form owning a dog due to the conditions of his release from prison.  Vick claims he owned a beagle-mix while growing up in Virginia and said, " I could take care of an animal in my household."

On Sunday, he will be staring into a pack of eleven crazed animals in their household.

New York Yankees Fans Hoped A.J. Burnett Was Divorcing Team

ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd reported yesterday that New York Yankee righthander, A.J. Burnett went through a "terrible" divorce this past season.  Darek Braunecker, Burnett's agent, called the "report" untrue and personal problems did not contribute to the Yankee pitcher's poor season.

Cowherd ticked off Braunecker by claiming on his radio show that Burnett "went through a terrible divorce and he still might be going through it."  Cowherd continued by saying, "His wife was vindictive and spiteful.  I don't even feel comfortable telling you [the audience] everything.  The stories are ugly."

Braunecker denied the report and said, "Colin Cowherd has no idea what he's talking about.  A.J. Burnett is not in the process nor was he ever in the process of of getting a divorce.  It's unequivocally false, and it's really irresponsible of Colin Cowherd to report that.  We've taken issue with that."

The agent claimed neither Cowherd or anyone from ESPN contacted him before airing the story and that Burnett was aware of the report.

Burnett may not be going through a messy divorce, according to his agent, but his second season as a Yankee was ugly and his relationship with fans is definitely on-the-rocks.

He finished 2010 with a record of 10-15 and an ERA of 5.26 and was inconsistent throughout the year.  Yankee fans have called for the disappointing starter to be relegated to the bullpen.  It might still be hard for the Bleacher Creatures to find it in their pinstripe hearts to believe that marital problems were the root of his erratic performance on the mound--even if they were true.

Braunecker railed against the radio show host's report and said, "This is irresponsible on Cowherd's part.  His reporting inaccuracies should be brought to light.  This must be his idea of shock jockery."

As Braunecker considered what actions they can take against Cowherd he stressed, "They [Burnett and his wife Karen] are happily married."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Kardashian Could Do Brian Cashman's Job

The New York Yankees insist they are not in any sort of panic mode after finishing out of the money in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.  After coming up with zilch at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, the Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, immediately went out and made a couple of moves;  signing two players with a history of injuries--catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Mark Prior.

While the Yankees claim they are looking past Lee's back-door move to the Philadelphia Phillies, they do seem to be a little desperate.  Cashman has gone from waving a blank check at Lee to Plan B.  "Plan B is patience," Cashman said yesterday.  Everyone assumed Plan B was acquiring outfielder Carl Crawford.  Didn't he end up in Boston?

Cashman spent a couple of weeks waving a wad of cash in the face of his desired off-season pick-up, Lee, who couldn't be bought.  One of the Kardashian brats could have done the same thing--only they usually get the bling they want.

The Yankees and Cashman have become so accustomed to whipping out the checkbook and getting who they want, wheeling-and-dealing are never an option.  Cashman just wrote a check and pulled A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia off the rack.  Being spurned is never in the equation.  Just like the K girls.

Cashman, the Steve Carrel lookalike, sometimes looked like he was playing some sort of bumbling Michael Scott in the Yankees "Front Office" this off-season.  Cashman's sit-commish negotiations with Derek Jeter made it look the relationship between Michael and Dwight look healthy.  It caused the face of the Yankees to actually question the allegiance of his beloved Yankees.

Then in the next off-season episode, Cashman had a business dinner with Carl Crawford.  He must have had corn in his teeth because the outfielder signed with the Red Sox two days later.

The GM's last off-season storyline continued with Michael... I mean Cashman watching Lee flee back to the Phillies while all the baseball pundits all but had the lefthander posing for a Monument Park plaque.

Now Cashman has to get his hands dirty by making a big-time trade--something it seems like he's done once in the past decade--the Curtis Granderson swap last year--then go to Plan P.

Plan P is getting Andy Pettitte to stop pulling his annual Brett Favre imitation and come back for one more year.  Cashman keeps speaking of patience and it could end up being a profitable virtue for Pettitte.  If the Yankee free-agent had signed a couple of weeks ago, when Lee looked like a slam dunk for the Yankees, he would have had to fight for every penny in his contract.  Now he knows Cashman has Lee's offer of $148 million still in hand and an ineffective A.J. Burnett as the number 3 starter.  Can any one say leverage?

"The one thing the Boss taught me is you have to get in the arena and fight, " said the Yankee GM.  "We will engage the remaining free agents and trade market and pursue what interests us at the level that we feel  appropriate," he continued. 

What is appropriate is another reliable starter and the only way to get one now is by wheeling and dealing.  After Sabathia and Phil Hughes, his rotation is fragile--even if it is bolstered with the 39 year-old Pettitte. Rounding out the rotation with Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova is risky at best.  Prior, who was signed to a minor league deal and hasn't pitched since 2006, will go straight to the bullpen.

After  wooing Pettitte, Cashman will realistically target former Cy Young winner, Zach Greinke.  The Kansas City Royal, who has admitted to past anxiety problems may come at a high cost and there is speculation he could be a bad fit in the Bronx.  Yankee fans have seen stronger players wilt under the New York media glare before.

There is talk about jumping in on the Tampa Bay fire sale and trading for Matt Garza as well as making an offer to the Florida Marlins for Josh Johnson and the possibility of a face-saving shot at Seattle Mariners Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez.  Beyond that, the pickings are slim--an injured Brandon Webb and ex-Yankee flame-out, Carl Pavano. Webb hasn't thrown since 2008 and Pavano already knows what it's like to be run out of the city.

The final Yankees option is waiting for the July 31 trading deadline because most of the pitchers named are in the middle of their contracts and teams would be asking too much right now.  Their prices might come down in mid-season.

For now, if Cashman wants to prove he's more than a Chloe or Kim with a checkbook jiggling through an off-season designer sale, he would make a move for Hernandez--even if it means parting with his prize catching prospect Jesus Montero.  Yankee fans have been hearing about Montero for years and well...where is he?!  Reality check.  The Yankees have three regular starting players they have brought up since 2005--four if you count Joba.

Cashman keeps harping about his young pitchers, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances, down in Single-A and how the Yankees must nurture them to be championship players.  Sounds like trade bait to me.  It's Cashman's version of the Joba Rules and looked what that pitcher has produced.

Seeing Hernandez in pinstripes would be a bigger deal than getting the 32 year-old Lee and make Cashman look like John Wayne and George Steinbrenner combined.  The only question remains is if the Mariners are willing to trade their current ace for future stars?

Cashman should make an offer to the Mariners.  He has trade bait and $148 million.  I wonder what the Kardashian girls could do with that kind of cash?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rex Ryan Turning Jets Into Second Class Citizens Again

The New York Giants and New York Jets both had experiences to remember last week.  The occurrences, incidents and odysseys seem to be borrowed from some Bizarro World comic book edition.  In the end, the Jets would probably prefer to forget everything from losing to their fall from grace.

The Jets (9-4) started the week recovering from a 45-3 beat down by their division rivals, the New England Patriots and ended it by getting beat at home, 10-6, by their other division nemesis the Miami Dolphins--a team who threw for a total of 55 yards.

In between those seven days the Jets owner, Woody Johnson, simmered his anger at his New Meadowlands Stadium roommate--and Giants CEO John Mara, for accommodating the Dolphins at  his team's practice field right before the big game.  Their budding bromance may now be sinking into the Meadowlands swamp along with the Jets season.

The Jets head coach and "Hard Knocks" star, Rex Ryan, started the week by inventing a new game strategy called accepting the opening kick-off if they win the coin-toss.  Pure genius.  And then--after being thoroughly undressed in public by the Pats--he buried a football at the Jets practice field last Monday to rid the team any spirits of Patriots past.  Hey, Bill Belichick did it last year.  The Jets score 3 points and their clueless head coach is making jokes and giving a pigskin the deep six.  Great Idea.  The Jets have now scored a grand total of 9 points over eight quarters.

 Ryan's vaunted defense is also falling apart.  The best Jets tackle against Miami was a trip by a Jet trainer standing on the sidelines.  The trainer, Sal Alosi, said his knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) reaction to using his left patella to senselessly trip Dolphins special teams player Nolan Carroll was "inexcusable and irresponsible."  It was also recordable and suspend able.  Only about 10,000 phone cameras caught it along with the CBS network.  Alosi will miss the rest of the season and was fined $25,000 by the Jets. Ryan stood on the sidelines and gawked at the fallen Carroll.

Meanwhile, the Giants (9-4) went on some sort road trip through the air and landed on the ground literally running after a troublesome itinerary.  The team gained 219 yards on the ground against the Minnesota Vikings and won, 21-3 at Ford Field in Detroit.  That's right, the Giants weren't in Kansas (City) anymore...or the scheduled venue in Minneapolis.

The Giants ordeal began when they flew to Kansas City after their charter flight to was re-routed from Minneapolis due to a snow storm.  They spent a night in K.C. not knowing when they would get to the Twin Cities or what time they would play and, after the Metrodome's roof collapsed under the weight of the snow, it was off to a neutral site in Detroit.  Oddly, it was the first Monday night football game played in Detroit in twenty years and the Lions weren't even in it!

That game saw the Giants become a footnote to NFL history too, when Vikings QB, Brett Favre, ended his consecutive game playing streak by not suiting up for the game because of numbness in his throwing arm.

The Giants overcame adversity and have kept pace with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East.  They would be a wild card team if the season ended today. 

The Jets meanwhile, have stumbled and bumbled in two straight losses.  Their cartoon character of a coach is showing himself to be as much a clown on the sidelines, as well as, in front of his press room.

A few weeks ago the Jets were touted as Super Bowl contenders, now they are facing the possibility of missing the playoffs after being 9-2. 

While the Giants are rising to the top, the Jets are sliding faster than Obama's approval ratings.  It's hard to believe the Jets can win road games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.  Even with what looked like a gimme a month ago, their final game at home against the Buffalo Bills looks like it could be a tussle.  A 9-7 record isn't unfathomable.  It's the same record which cost Eric Mangini his head coaching job two years ago and let the caveman Ryan make his louder-than-loud entrance.

 Ryan, who likes to don wigs and dress up for the cameras, acts like every press conference is an audition for Saturday Night Live.  He might have a shot because his offense is one big comedy skit.   He's Chris Farley with his stomach tied into a knot.

Not all the blame should be put on Ryan's back.  The Jets downfall coincides with the declining skills of their quarterback Mark Sanchez.  The Jets QB started the season with eight TD tosses and no interceptions.  Since then?  Sanchez has eight TDs and 12 interceptions.  He is the number 28 ranked passer in the league.  The Jets answer to Eli Manning is going in the wrong direction.

Sanchez has reverted back to the skittish rookie of last year.  Under throwing and sacks are becoming big part of his game.   Ryan blames it on fundamentals and was so serious about it, took the young QB to lunch last week to discuss it.

"Mark is my quarterback," said the head coach, "He'll always be our starting quarterback...We're going as far as he takes us." On Sunday, Ryan told the press he thought about pulling the ineffective Sanchez in the third quarter of last week's Miami game.

 Ryan came to New York with a cock-sure attitude and defensive genius on his resume.  His brashness and Peter Griffith resemblance were a nice contrast to his predecessor, the frowning Belichick-wannabe Mangini.



Ryan's team finally had a stadium they could call their own and they showed signs of promise during the playoffs.  Things were looking up.  Now Ryan has turned into the rude in-law you would endure, if only for his Yankee box seats every couple of years,  but don't want to see stuffing his face at a family dinner.

He came in with a reputation as a player's coach.  A guy you could share a beer with.  Now he just looks unprofessional.  The fact that everything keep getting away from him started this summer with the Inez Sainz training camp incident and continued with his laughable punishment of Braylon Edwards after his DUI arrest and now the sideline tripping antics.  Ryan has yet to say whether he will fire Alosi for his stupid action.

Ryan's indecision reflects on the field.  Come-from-behind wins against mediocre teams does not a champion make and silly penalties almost cost the Jets a few games. That tough-as-Bill Parcells exterior is part of his shtick.  He's the anti-Parcells.

Ryan showed his fake self in all his glory on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer.  He is just a thinner version of that supposedly hard reality star.  The F-bombs and caveman behavior were boorish when the Jets were winning, now it is just sad.  It's more about execution than excuses and Ryan is really softer than his belly.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New York Giants Should Thank Detroit Lions Three-Fold

Who could have predicted that the lowly Detroit Lions and their fans would play a crucial part in the New York Giants quest to make the playoffs?  The Giants will play the Minnesota Vikings Monday night at Ford Field in the Motor City, after spending Saturday night in Kansas City, because a snow storm collapsed the roof at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  To the Giants benefit, a road game will now be played at a relatively neutral site.

The Giants spent Saturday night hanging out and wondering, and not knowing, when the game would be played.  Where was never in the equation.   Now it is the Vikings who are scrambling to the airport.  

In what looked like a lost and frustrating weekend for the New York Giants,  Mother Nature's fury has turned their misfortunes into a slight advantage.  Even the oddsmakers have noticed.  The Giants opened as 1-point favorites against the Minnesota Vikings, then the number shifted to 2 1/2 points when bettors went all in on the Giants then,  after the game was moved to Detroit, the Vegas odds jumped to 4 points.

Big Blue's odyssey began Saturday when their charter plane was diverted from Minneapolis and the team was forced to cool their heels overnight in a Kansas City hotel not knowing if they were even going to make it to Minnesota the next morning.  The Metrodome's roof collapsed at 5 a.m. Sunday morning and the NFL relocated the game to Detroit.

Going to Detroit gives the Giants a three-fold boost to the playoffs, which they didn't have two days ago, and the team can quietly thank the Lions.

The Giants (8-4) are still trying to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) in a tough NFC East Division title battle while hanging with the New Orleans Saints (10-3), Green Bay Packers (8-5) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) for a wild card spot.  Any strategic advantage for the Giants after this weekend's conundrum is a bonus down the stretch. 

After the Metrodome's roof ripped open and dumped a couple of tons of snow onto the field, Giants owner, John Mara, suggested moving the game to his home field, the New Meadowlands Stadium, but the idea was immediately shot down by the NFL.  Hey, the New Orleans Saints played a "home" game there after Hurricane Katrina closed down the Superdome in 2005.

First blessing, the new locale takes away the home field advantage for the Vikings.  Playing the game in what the NFL is calling a "neutral" site is misleading.  Ford Field will be filled with as many anti-Viking fans, rooting against their inter-divisional rivals, as Giant fans.  It gives the Giants a slight "home" field edge.  However slight, it sure beats the high-decibel roar the home town fans would rein on the visitors in the Minneapolis Thunderdome.   Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, was poised and handled the noise factor in a rout against the Seattle Seahawks  inside Qwest Field--arguably the league's loudest venue--a few weeks ago but, when the decibel level rises so does his interception rate.  The less hostile surroundings should help keep Eli from getting rattled.

Second, the Giants must tip their helmets to a  Detroit Lions team which held on to defeat the Packers yesterday at Ford Field.  The shocking upset gives the Giants a half game lead on the Pack and, in the course of the game, Detroit managed to lay out Green Bay's star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, with a concussion.

This lends itself to the third--injuries are part of the game--benefit of the Detroit Lions factor in the Giants good fortune.  Rodger's  head injury is his second of the season and there is concern he may not be cleared to play when the Giants visit Green Bay in two weeks.  This leaves open the possibility of the ineffective backup, Matt Flynn, facing the Giants defense in a typical December-chilled Lambeau Field in what will probably be a game with playoff spot implications for both teams.  The Giants D is already looking ahead.

The Giants arrived in Detroit yesterday at 3 p.m.   Oddly, there could be as many fans for tonight's 7:20 EST game for two visiting teams as there are for the barely watchable, but improving Lions. Free general admission tickets will be available at the Ford Field box office beginning this morning.   The game will be broadcast by Fox in the New York and Minnesota markets. 

It all remains to be seen how the Giants respond to this adventure.  Next week they play their division rival the Eagles in the Meadowlands, but the shortened and disruptive week could take it's toll.  In a week that started with the Giants generously offer their practice field to a visiting Miami Dolphins team, it has ended with the Detroit Lions returning the favor.  One good deed returned in triplicate.  Merry Christmas from Detroit.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Giants Plane Diverted From Snow-Bound Minnesota

The New York Giants have plenty of reasons for avoiding the Minnesota Vikings, a team who have beaten the Giants four straight times, but not showing up to the game is a novel way to not lose.  On Saturday, the Giants charter plane--en route to Minneapolis--was diverted to Kansas City after a snow storm closed the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Giants spokesperson, Pat Hanlon, said the team will spend the night in Kansas City and try to fly into Minneapolis Sunday morning.  The NFL said the game will be played at it's scheduled noon (local) start time. 

The hassle of being re-routed and getting up early for a new flight could be a competitive advantage to the Vikings (5-7) who routed the the Giants (8-4) last year.  The Giants are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and fighting for a playoff spot. The last thing they need is a distraction of this sort.

While the NFL hasn't dismissed the possibility of postponing the game, getting into Minneapolis might cause it to happen.  The Twin Cities forecast calls for a snow warning until 6 a.m. Sunday with 10-12" of snow possible combining with wind chills of minus-20 to minus-35 degrees.  The Giants are hoping the runways are cleared by morning.

The New York media has been stuck in New York airports as well.  All airports around Minneapolis have been closed until 3 p.m. Saturday so many flights have been cancelled or postponed.  The Vikings cancelled a Miller Lite pre-game party outside the Metrodome.

One person who might find a silver lining inside of this blizzard is Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.  The Wrangler Guy, coming off a bum ankle and shoulder injury, will be facing a sleep-deprived Giant defense.  A postponement of the game would give him a little more time to heal. 

I was wondering who or what would end Favre's consecutive game streak--the NFL, his shoulder or Jenn Sterger--but it looks like Mother Nature is giving him a helping hand.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Sox Guarantee Cliff Lee Will Become A Yankee

If anything can light a fire under Brian Cashman, it's the Boston Red Sox.  The New York Yankee GM has upped the Cliff Lee ante in his game of Texas Hold 'em with his Texas Rangers opponent by offering the prized pitcher a seven-year deal worth $161 million.   Cashman's flop sweat is dripping onto the poker chips.

The Red Sox just snapped up outfielder Carl Crawford--the Yankees Plan B if they lost Lee--after signing first baseman Adrian Gonzalez last week.  Both players--in the prime of their careers--have each agreed to  seven-year deals worth nearly $300 million.  Everything looks good up in the land of white clam chowder.

While the Boston GM Theo Epstein awoke from his two-year off-season slumber with a roar, Cashman is now faced with one face-saving option for this off-season--signing Cliff Lee.

Cashman's two-year deal with Mariano Rivera and his four-year contract with Derek Jeter were almost no-brainers--if you discount Jeter's contentious negotiations--they weren't going anywhere else.  Both signings of past-their-prime players were important, but the deals haven't upgraded the team.  Now with veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte seriously talking retirement and the Core Four looking like it might be whittled down to the "Key Three," Cashman has to go all in for Lee.

The Texas Rangers won't go away quietly, but their bark is louder than their bank account.  The team filed for bankruptcy and the Lee numbers would take up between 25-30% of their entire payroll.  The ace up Cashman's sleeve is the seventh year.  The Rangers originally offered the lefthander a four or five deal and got real quiet after the Yankees threw a sixth year on the table.  Seven could be too rich for their blood.  Sure the new Texas regime has two major investors who are Texas oil barons and could pump out a few extra barrels to land Lee, but it seems unlikely they will go for the extra year. 

Cashman isn't bluffing, even if he knows the sixth and seventh years could be throw-ins for the 32 year-old Lee.  He recognizes the limitations of pitchers approaching the big Four-Oh.  The GM also knows getting the lefty is an immediate antidote to the plague of a predominately left-hitting Red Sox line-up.  The sight of Lee signing a Yankee contract could possibly entice Pettitte to give it another shot at a championship too.  A starting line-up of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes makes the Yankee Universe salivate.  Sorry Kristen Lee, that's not fan's spit raining down from the mezzanine it is their drool.

As Cashman makes mild overtures at catcher Russell Martin, if only to keep him available and away from the Sox, and has Zach Greinke simmering on the stove--just in case Lee fails to sign--he realizes everything boils down to Lee.

The newly signed Gonzalez donned his new Red Sox jersey and proclaimed he was "ready to beat the Yanks," but it is Epstein who has made the loudest noise at the Winter Meetings.

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry goes beyond the diamond and into the front office.  Cashman has made the biggest off-season strides between the teams for the past two years and now the Boston GM has turned the tables.

It has now become a matter of pride to Cashman and the Yankees.  If he can land Lee, and only Lee,  the Yankees have beaten the Red Sox once again. Nothing else will do.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Giants Host Dolphins at Meadowlands Practice Facility

The New York Giants invited the Miami Dolphins into their training facility tomorrow to help them prepare for the Dolphin's Sunday afternoon game against the Giants co-tenants, the New York Jets.   While the Jets head coach Rex Ryan was burying a jinxed football outside his team's practice facility yesterday, the Jets owner, Woody Johnson, was digging up negative feelings between the two New York teams who share one stadium.

Giants co-owner, John Mara said he didn't contact the Jets owner because he felt it was just a simple case of civility.   Jets fans think it sounds fishy that their New Meadowlands roommates would turn their practice field into a northern version of Sea World right before a big game against their AFC East division rivals.  All that's missing is Miami consultant--and former Giant and Jet coach--Bill "Big Tuna" Parcells performing a Shamu act.

The Giants agreed to allow the Dolphins team use of the indoor field almost a month ago.  Mara said he wishes he contacted the Jets before the invitation. The Dolphins head coach, Tony Sparano, is the Giants former defensive coordinator.

Johnson did phone Mara and voiced his displeasure at his alleged friend's version of "Three's Company." Mara said he told Johnson he wished he called first and said, "We have a long partnership that's going to last for many years and the last thing I want to do is get them upset about an issue like this."  Johnson has made no public comment.

Jets fans disagree.  They have always felt like illegal squatters in the Meadowlands. It goes back to the days of trying use green bunting to hide the blue walls of the old Giants Stadium to recent disagreements with the design of the new stadium before it was completed.

The fans claim they are the stadium's second-class citizens and are still irked by the "rigged" secret coin toss, which decided the team who would pop the cherry of the New Meadowlands Stadium by hosting the first regular season game.

Mara should have taken the Jets inferiority complex into consideration before making the Dolphins--one of the Jets sworn enemies--comfortable.  The Jets might view this as revenge for opening up a multi-stitch gash in Giants quarterback Eli Manning's head during last summer's pre-season game.  Ryan was asked if he was angry about the Giants' hospitality and only remarked, "Officially?  No."  The usually vocal coach then added,  "It's their facility, they can do anything they want with it."

Ryan wasn't so generous later and said, "I don't want anyone using our facility but us.  When we have the Super Bowl [in the Meadowlands] I'm going to make sure we're in it...I don't want anyone in the facility but us."

 While New York sports radio was burning with pissed Jets callers, the Giants players took it in stride.  "It's cool," said Giant wide-out, Steve Smith, "They'll bring a little South Beach love here."

Sparano brought the Dolphins to New York early, not so much as a sneak attack, but more of a bonding outing for his team.  They plan to see the Broadway show "Lombardi" and get acclimated with the cold weather. In an indoor practice field?  Mara also mentioned his son is an associate producer on "Lombardi."  Maybe the Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez--a noted Broadway buff--is a little jealous?

After all was said and done, the Jets and Giants owners made up.  In a Jets fan's warped vision, it is still a Giants town.  Forty-two years without a Super Bowl appearance can make a person greener than the Jets uniform.  Maybe the Jets ought to roll out the red carpet for the Philadelphia Eagles next week, right before they play the Giants.  Sanchez can take them to see "Elf."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eli Manning Has Something To Prove In Minnesota

Nobody has to remind the New York Giants about last January's season-ending bashing at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings--especially quarterback Eli Manning.  While the Vikings were lighting up the Giants defense like the Rockefeller Christmas tree, Manning continued his five-year streak of futility against the the Northmen.

Last year's rout was the fourth straight loss to Minnesota and put an exclamation point on the Giants dismal 2009 season.  Manning has never beaten Minny in four tries and, except for  a game in 2008 when he was pulled at halftime because the Giants already had the top seed in the NFC in their future, he has been brutalized by the purple defense.

One time in 2007, Manning was chastised by the press and Giants front office after throwing three interceptions which were returned for touchdowns in a lackadaisical effort against the Vikes.   The Giants GM Jerry Reese called his quarterback "skittish."  The press said he quit.

Last year's mauling was just the Vikings way of using an elephant gun to put the staggering G-Men out of their misery.  This year the Giants (8-4) are tied for first place with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East and claim they have have something to play for this time around.

The Giants have upcoming games against Philly and the Green Bay Packers--both in the playoff hunt--and a loss against the Vikings could push them out of the wildcard race.  A 10-6 record could leave any teams out of the playoffs because of strong teams like The Packers (8-4) and the New Orleans Saints (9-3) building up steam.

Despite walloping the Washington Redskins last week, the Giants have been inconsistent and hurt.  Eli has still thrown too many interceptions and the offense has trouble getting six inside the red zone. The team had been decimated by injuries to the offensive line and receiving corps and has more guys on the DL than "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark."

While that Broadway musical deals with flying actors crashing into the mezzanine and opening night jitters, the Giants were besieged by blitzing safeties and Sunday fumbles.  Lately though, the Giants have been successfully using understudies and hitting their marks.

Reese has been making all the right moves.  He brought back Derek Hagan--who was cut by the Giants in training camp--and has filled in admirably as a receiver.  Tight end Bear Pascoe was on the taxi-squad and now fills in at fullback.  They are two of many fill-ins who have played crucial roles in the Giants modest win streak.

Reese's wheeling and dealings are reminiscent of his magic touch in 2007 when he brought in role-players like Madison Hedgecock, Dominik Hixon and Kevin Boss in the Giants' stretch-run to Super Bowl XLII.  They have been important cogs--when healthy-- on this year's team as well.

For a team that has a record of 11-15 in the crucial month of December, since Head Coach Tom Coughlin took over, the team is confident.  Coughlin knows he doesn't have to fire his players up against the Vikings and the players are responding.

Defensive tackle Barry Cofield said the team is motivated especially the way the defense has been playing the past two weeks.  "That's what you live for," said Cofield.  "You want to have pressure and have something to play for and have things at the end of the season to play for."

For now,  the Giants have been fortunate to win with new replacement players but maybe some old faces will be back on the field this Sunday.  Wide receiver Steve Smith--who missed four games with a torn pectoral muscle--said he could start and offensive lineman David Diehl (hamstring injury) might be back too.

Manning's woes against the Vikings stand out in bright red ink on the stat pages.  While he has shown flashes of brilliance against most teams, he has been a dud against Minnesota.  Manning's 0-4 record, nine interceptions, and a passer rating of 47.7 against the Vikings blink like the North Star on a clear night in Hibbing.   

This is the game in which Manning must come up big.  His emotional void is sometimes mistaken for a weakness--a lack of competitiveness.  All said, Manning has handled six years in New York and wears a Super Bowl ring.

Sunday, he is playing for pride, respect and the playoffs.  A loss this weekend and it could be back to playing out the season...again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Derek Jeter Won't Admit Who He Is Angry At

Derek Jeter finally commented on his contentious off-season contract negotiations today and said he was "angry" but wouldn't specify who he was angry at.  The New York Yankee held a press conference announcing his re-signing with the only team he has ever played for at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa--70 miles from the Winter Meetings in Orlando.  The mountain goes to Jeter.

The five minute announcement was broadcast live on ESPN and the MLB Network this afternoon.

The Yankee Captain was originally rumored to be asking for a deal in the stratosphere of 6 years and $120 million, but finally signed a contract for 3 years for $51 million and a fourth year for $5 million. The 11-time All-Star sat between the man who held firm on the Yankees side of the bargaining table, GM Brian Cashman, and the team manager, Joe Girardi before the conference began.

The conference room was filled with reporters who car-pooled from the Winter Meetings to hear Jeter--who cleared his throat often and looked a little uncomfortable at times--answer questions which have swirled around his drawn out off-season contract talks.

He started the press conference by smiling and saying, "I've never had one of these before."  He thanked the Steinbrenner family and claimed he, "Never thought he wouldn't be a Yankee again."

While much was made by the New York press about Cashman telling Jeter to "test the free-agent waters" over the past couple of weeks, Jeter said he never had any discussions with other teams.  He talked about having his face Photoshopped onto New York Mets and Boston Red Sox uniforms by joking "about being Photoshopped in worse ways."

Jeter got serious when asked why he never discussed the rumors which leaked out during the negotiations.  "I never spoke on this situation," he said.  "That bothered me the most," he continued, " The negotiations are supposed to be private."  He never mentioned how much his agent, Casey Close, originally asked for and if the rumored amounts were true.

"I wasn't negotiating with anyone else," Jeter stressed.  He said he was resentful of the whole process and how he was portrayed as "greedy" and full of "arrogance." "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't angry," the stern-faced Yankee said.

The future Hall-of Famer didn't take any shots at who his was anger was directed at.  There could be the usual suspects in the Yankee front office--Cashman, Hal or Hank Steinbrenner--who Jeter could lash out at, but he took the high road--even after getting the rumored demands sliced in half.  Leaking information could have been a bargaining tool to make Jeter look like the bad guy and, for a while, Yankee fans were divided on that front.

 The brief conference ended with the 36 year-old Jeter saying he is ready and able to play a few more years and all the chatter of him being too old doesn't bother him.  He drew the conversation away from his own abilities by saying, "I just want to prove we're the best team in baseball."  True Derek Jeter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

If Yankees Don't Land Lee; What's Next?

While the New York Yankees' GM, Brian Cashman, was scaling down a 22-story building in Connecticut this weekend, the team finished signing up two free agents, closer Mariano Rivera and shortstop Derek Jeter.  It is only fitting that this year's Winter Meetings are in Orlando--the home of Disney World--especially the way the Yankees Mickey Moused with the team captain the past few weeks.

Things have been rather noisy around the Yankees off-season offices--not for all the right reasons--and now the Boston Red Sox have started making a racket.  The Sox finally showed some form of life and unapologetic gall this past weekend by announcing that they had offered Rivera, one of the Yank's signing  priorities, a three-year deal and then traded for first-baseman, Adrian Gonzalez.  It's good to see the Yankees/Red Sox rivals butting head once again especially since their wooing of Mo was a direct slap to the face of their own closer, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Sox finally landed a big-time hitter after losing both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to the Yankees in past off-seasons.

Things have been relatively quiet between the two AL East division teams after the Red Sox Nation basked  in the glow of the ALCS in 2004 and the days of "bloody" socks and Pedro Martinez roughing up Don Zimmer.  Regular season games against the Sox have become five hour tests of endurance  compared to the ones against the chippy Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays short-lived "dynasty" will soon go the way of their cowbells and mohawks as the team gets stripped by free-agency.  Rays fans may find solace in the knowledge that it is no secret that Jeter has expressed interest in becoming a major league team owner and has just completed a $36 million estate in Tampa.  Jeter's final playing days have just been signed and sealed and that $51 million should be enough for a down payment on the fan-starved franchise after his days in pinstripes are over.  

The Yankees deals with Rivera and Jeter do raise a few questions.  Rivera has mentioned that his two-year, $30 million contract might be his last.  He was offered three years by Boston and turned it down and there was never any reports of him fighting for more time.  2012 could be the year "Enter Sandman" blasts from the speakers in the house that Jeter built.

Jeter, on the other hand, haggled and got three years plus a fourth with incentives.  Now the only question is whether or not last season's slump was just a bump on the way to Coopperstown.  The 36 year-old  Jeter will be working hard to regain his reputation as a premier player.  The shortstop will turn 37 in June and wasn't too happy with the way he was described and flogged during the contentious contractual process.

Too many stories claimed only two shortstops--Honus Wagner and Luke Appling--were ever successful after the age of 37 and they played eons ago.  Since 1969, only 19 shortstops older than 37 played 100 games in a season and only one, Larry Bowa, made the playoffs.  So Jeter has a high wall to scale.  Maybe he should borrow some of Cashman's rappelling gear.

Now that Cashman has signed two pieces of his off-season trifecta, he can concentrate on getting every one's favorite Christmas present,  Cliff Lee.  Lee's name will be in the New York headlines a lot for the next few days with a few side bars about Andy Pettitte.  The left-handed starter Lee is Cashman's main concern.

"My priority is pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching," the GM said, "I've been focusing on the legacy guys, but I really need to take care of our pitching."  Lee is the class pitcher in a shallow group of free-agents.  The righthander and Pettitte would fill that void.

Lee is going to be looking for a deal of about $140 million for six or seven years.  The Texas Rangers, Lee's team last season, is hoping a longer contract will keep their ace in Arlington, but the Yankees believe their deeper pockets will prevail.

The Yankees and Rangers are the only serious bidders for Lee.   If the Yankees don't get Lee, they might have to fight for the services of Plan B; Carl Crawford.  The Rangers are also interested in the centerfielder and he could become a parting gift to the team that doesn't land Lee, but only if the Los Angeles don't grab him first.   Although the Yankees just lost DH Lance Berkman, it is unlikely that any team could afford both players--especially the recently bankrupt Rangers.

Crawford would be a replacement for one of three current Yankee outfielders--Curtis Granderson,  Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher.  Granderson came on strong at the end of last year and Swisher, a fan favorite, had a solid first half, then wilted after his All-Star appearance.  Gardner is the young stud and modelled similar  to Crawford, so any rumors of a trade means talks are on between the Yankees and Crawford.

One player the Yankees might want to test in the trade waters is reliever/starter Joba Chamberlain.  The yankees' front office has never expressed interest in trading the inconsistent and maligned Joba, but many think he could thrive on a different team. 

A.J. Burnett could find himself gone if the Yankees sign Lee and Pettitte.  Burnett throws more pies than strikes and the Yankees might be interested in unloading the tattooed pitcher by paying some of his money to a team that wants him.  A nice relief pitcher would be welcome in that trade.  Toronto reliever, Scott Downs could fit the bill.

The Yankees tried to acquire Downs from the Blue Jays last year and have something in common with the lefthander--his agent Casey Close is Jeter's front man.  Nothing breeds love like familiarity and Close has become a regular on Cashman's Skype.  Damasco Marte's shoulder injury leaves the lefty's future in jeopardy and the Yankees bullpen even thinner.

Cashman knows his off-season success hangs on signing Lee.  Jeter and Rivera were primarily slam-dunks and even Carl Crawford would be seen a booby prize.  Its Lee or nothing.